A new documentary telling the story of the struggle of first responders and survivors 20 years after 9/11 has premiered in New York.
Director Bridget Gormley's "Dust" tells the story of firefighters and survivors who are suffering from 68 different types of cancers and countless respiratory illnesses due to their exposure to toxins at Ground Zero.
Thousands of survivors have passed away due to their exposure to toxins, including Gormley's father William, an FDNY firefighter who died from bladder cancer in 2017.
"Everybody in the 9/11 community who doesn’t have cancer is looking over their shoulder, wondering, ‘When am I next?'" Gormley said.
Gormley's documentary premiered at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan on Thursday and featured special guests such as filmmaker Kevin Smith and actor Gary Sinise. Executive producer Steve Buscemi, who volunteered at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center, also appeared at the premiere.
"Dust" highlights the tragedy of first responders and survivors who are forced to relive 9/11 and deal with its deadly legacy on a daily basis.
"While their lives were spared that day, they now face a mounting health crisis. It serves as a reminder of the ongoing human toll of 9/11 - nearly two decades later," Gormley said in a synopsis of the documentary.
Gormley said that her father's cancer diagnosis was "unwelcome but anticipated" after he spent months sifting through rubble at Ground Zero. She said that she searched for answers following her father's death in 2017 and discovered that thousands of survivors had suffered the same fate as her father.
The film explores an Environmental Protection Agency announcement from 2001 that told people that the air in Lower Manhattan was safe to breathe and that those who were exposed to it were unlikely to suffer short or long-term respiratory effects.
However, the dust that settled on people's skin and in their lungs had a PH level comparable to Drano, an extremely powerful drain-cleaning product. Investigations later revealed that the toxins at Ground Zero contained steel, gypsum from drywall, cellulose, synthetic molecules, pulverized glass fibers, jet fuel, and PCBs.
It is now estimated that more people have died from 9/11-related illnesses over the past 20 years than the 2,996 people who perished on 9/11, leading Gormley to search for answers.
"Up until now, the 9/11 narrative has mostly focused on “what happened”. As tens of thousands continue to become sick, Dust explores a new direction in the narrative: “What is happening now, and what have we learned?"
Featuring Steve Buscemi and Wren Arthur as executive producers, "Dust" documents the ongoing political struggle for recognition and compensation that 9/11 survivors continue to face.
Click here to see a trailer for the newly-released documentary.